Tar Heels Win One For The Seniors With 63-61 Triumph Over Fighting Irish

The No. 14 North Carolina men’s basketball team beat Notre Dame 63-61 Monday on Senior Night to record a 12th straight win and improve to 23-7 on the season and 13-4 in ACC play.

With the loss, Notre Dame dropped to 15-16 on the season and 6-12 in conference action.

***Listen to the story***

The Tar Heels raced away from the Fighting Irish early on with in-form play from J.P. Tokoto. Carolina claimed the 41-27 lead at the intermission with a clean performance, only committing three turnovers despite shuffling nearly the entire team on and off the court due to Senior Day tradition.

Senior Send-Off (Todd Melet)

Senior Send-Off (Todd Melet)

Notre Dame went on a 10-1 run to start the second half. Carolina only managed to score eight points in over ten minutes after intermission. The free throw shooting woes continued to plague UNC as the Tar Heels shot 45.5 percent from the line on 22 attempts.

The Irish claimed the 56-54 lead with 3:46 to play, but Carolina closed out the game in fine form with clutch shots by both Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo.

Impressively, after falling behind 49-46, the Tar Heel defense held Notre Dame without a field goal for seven minutes and 52 seconds.

“Senior Night is always emotional to me. It’s emotional for Leslie [McDonald] because he didn’t have the kind of game that he’s had recently. Those four seniors have meant a lot to us,” Head Coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

McAdoo led the scoring charge for the Tar Heels with 14 points while Tokoto reached double figures with an 11-point contribution.

Pat Connaughton provided 17 points for the Irish, but Eric Atkins led all scorers with 21 points.  Despite the impressive outings, UNC overcame and emerged victorious on Senior Night.

The opening tipoff was won by Notre Dame, but they threw it away to hand the ball back to the senior Tar Heels and McAdoo.

Wade Moody popped a three-pointer to the delight of the crowd. McAdoo scored on the ensuing possession to give UNC the 4-0 lead.

McAdoo scored and drew the foul. He knocked down the foul shot after the senior role players were all relegated to the bench following their ceremonial start to the game.

With 16:45 on the first half clock, Carolina held the 8-4 advantage. Meeks scored inside off a sharp McAdoo assist.

Austin Burgett knocked down a three-pointer to reduce the Irish deficit down to four points with 14:43 on the clock.

J.P. Tokoto drained a deep jumper, finding some space while the Irish continued to struggle on the offensive end with turnovers and sluggish play.

Atkins scored on a smooth shot to close the gap down to three, but Kennedy Meeks replied with a score of his own to push the Tar Heels ahead 16-11 with 11:48 to play in the half.

Joel James powered his way to the basket, making the shot and getting fouled. He made the free throw to give UNC the 21-13 lead with 8:38 to play before halftime.

McAdoo flung the ball through the nets as the Carolina offense was roaring along, shredding the Fighting Irish defense.

McAdoo battling for the ball (Todd Melet)

McAdoo battling for the ball (Todd Melet)

McDonald nailed a shot from behind the arc to give the Tar Heels a 28-16 edge with 5:30 to play in the half. Meanwhile, Atkins continued to be the one player for the Irish who was keeping them in the contest, knocking down another beautiful jumper.

Paige responded on the other end, matching Atkins with a three-pointer of his own. Tokoto’s athleticism was on full display as he weaved around a couple Notre Dame defenders with an electric score.

After another McDonald strike, Carolina had the 35-22 advantage with 3:01 left in the half.

Tokoto streaked to the basket again out of a timeout, making the shot and picking up a foul in the process. With 2:13 on the first half clock, Carolina held a 37-24 lead over Notre Dame.

Freshman Steve Vasturia pulled away for a made jumper, but Tokoto continued his offensive storm with a score for the Tar Heels right after.

At the half, it was Carolina with the 41-27 advantage. The Tar Heels shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half.

Tokoto was leading the way with 9 points while McAdoo contributed 8 points for the Tar Heels. But even more impressively, Carolina only committed three turnovers in a half where the entire team saw action.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, was connecting on 42 percent of its shots. Atkins produced a team-leading 10 points for the Irish.

Pat Connaughton drained a deep three-pointer to trim the Tar Heel lead down to 42-37 as the Irish were on an 10-1 run to start the second half.

Brice Johnson scored UNC’s first field goal of the second half, but the Irish offense was rolling now. Atkins scored on the other end. With 15:43 to play, Carolina held a slim 44-39 advantage.

The lead was cut down to three when Atkins hit another jumper, and a three-point snipe tied the game at 44-44 with 14:41 to play.

Johnson responded with a score to break the tie as the crowd drew back into the contest. Notre Dame was making everything they looked at from the floor, sinking another long-range three-pointer to claim the lead at 47-46 with 13:38 left in the game.

A big block by McAdoo came at the 12:05 mark with Carolina trailing 49-46 with 11:57 to play.

McAdoo hitting the hardwood (Todd Melet)

McAdoo hitting the hardwood (Todd Melet)

Nate Britt drained a deep jumper to get the Carolina offense out of its funk while the defense responded with a stop.

After a turnaround jumper that sunk through the nets by McAdoo, the Tar Heels were back on in front 50-49 with 9:42 to play.

***Listen to the call by the Tar Heel Sports Network’s Jones Angell***

Britt took a hard foul in transition that left him relegated to the floor for a while before he hobbled off the court. Hubert stepped in to shoot his foul shots, but missed both.

McDonald stepped out of bounds to commit a turnover, and with 7:40 to play, the Tar Heels were clinging to a 50-49 lead.

McAdoo got to the line and missed an ugly two free throws to the groan of the crowd. Paige darted into the paint and calmly floated in a shot that gave UNC the 52-50 edge, but Notre Dame answered right back to tie the game at 52-52 with 5:19 remaining.

Britt fired in a shot that regained the lead for the Tar Heels. Atkins nailed a jumper for the Irish to retie the game and then take the lead with a runaway layup by Vasturia that earned the 56-54 lead for Notre Dame with 3:46 to play.

McAdoo went to foul line, but only made one of two. The Tar Heels trailed by a point. But he made up for it on the next possession with a contested shot that fell through the nets in transition to give UNC the lead at 57-56.

Johnson followed McAdoo’s lead with a score and a foul after a Notre Dame turnover, but he missed the free throw. UNC led by three.

Johnson spreading out. (Todd Melet)

Johnson spreading out. (Todd Melet)

Tokoto answered the bell again with a clutch make that ignited the crowd with 1:15 to play. Carolina had saved its best stuff for the close yet again, claiming a 61-56 lead with 1:15 to play.

Connaughton worked his way inside for a score and a foul. He calmly sank the point after to close the Irish to within two points with 40 seconds left.

Paige was fouled with 17 seconds remaining. He knocked down one of two. But the Irish scored quickly on the other end and fouled Paige again. He missed another free throw to leave the door open for the Irish, but time expired, giving Carolina the victory.

***Listen to the call***

Next up for the Tar Heels is a rematch with No. 4 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday night.

Click here for the game photo gallery.

Final Box Score

Coach Williams addressing the crowd (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams addressing the crowd (Todd Melet)


Hot Carolina Squad Hopes To Send Seniors Out On Top Against Notre Dame

The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 22-7 overall and 12-4 in the ACC, will be aiming to make it twelve straight victories Monday night in the Smith Center when it takes on struggling Notre Dame, 15-15 on the season and 6-11 in the conference.

Head Coach Roy Williams says he credits some of the role players for keeping the Carolina winning streak alive.

“They really have bought in to the playing harder and the ‘sense of urgency’ idea I’ve talked about all year. I think one thing that’s been helpful, and I won’t say a surprise because that acts like you don’t care or don’t think your teammates can do something, but Joel [James] gave us three or four good minutes, Desmond [Hubert] gave us three or four good minutes. Those guys came in and gave us some good minutes,” Coach Williams says.

Some of the Tar Heel players have discussed the late-season fatigue they are feeling. Coach Williams, however, says that’s no excuse for not giving it everything you’ve got every time you step out on the floor.

“If you can’t get fired up 29 times there is something wrong with you. I don’t buy all that junk. Yet everybody says it. I think it’s a bunch of junk. If I get to play 29 games, I’m going to play my ‘blankenty-blank’ off 29 times,” Coach Williams says.

Paige eyeing the basket (Todd Melet)

Paige eyeing the basket (Todd Melet)

Notre Dame comes into Monday’s matchup off a narrow overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Fighting Irish 17-4 and won their most recent outing 73-62 at South Bend back on Feb. 8. It will be Notre Dame’s first trip to Chapel Hill since 1993.

Coach Williams says in the special seasons, you have to be able to pull out some games when you aren’t necessarily playing great basketball.

“We’ve won some games early. It hasn’t all been pretty well. You have to understand that sometimes you’re going to play really well and you hope you win those games. Sometimes, you could even lose those. To have a great year, you’ve got to win a lot of games ugly to be honest with you,” Coach Williams says.

Monday will mark the final home games for seniors Leslie McDonald, James Manor, Wade Moody and Denzel Robinson. It is sure to be an emotional night in the SmithCenter.

Coverage on 97.9 FM, WCHL begins at 5:30 p.m. with Countdown to Tipoff.


Tar Heels Snag Fifth Straight Win, Slide By Fighting Irish 73-61

SOUTH BEND, Ind.– The North Carolina men’s basketball team fought past Notre Dame Saturday afternoon 73-61 to improve to 16-7 overall and 6-4 in the ACC.

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With the loss, the Fighting Irish fell to 12-12 on the year and 3-8 in conference action.

After a somewhat sluggish start, the Tar Heels got things rolling late in the first half, finishing on a 17-4 run and never relinquishing control of the contest from there.

Lethal in transition, Carolina converted on numerous fast break opportunities, but it was the intensity on the defensive side of the floor that really set the tone at the Purcell Pavilion.

It was balanced scoring for the Tar Heels with Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto, Brice Johnson and James Michael McAdoo all in double figures.

UNC Head Coach Roy Williams says he was excited about the important road ACC victory.

“We feel great. There’s no question about that. We survived their early start where they made their first four threes, and then after that we were fortunate they missed a bunch of them. I thought our team grew some today,” Coach Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame press conference***

Garrick Sherman led the way for the Irish with 17 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the determined Tar Heels on this afternoon.

Sherman got off to a quick start with some physical play inside and some deft touch off the glass as the Irish claimed the 6-2 lead with 16:50 to play in the half.

The 9-0 Notre Dame run ignited the crowd in Purcell Pavilion and staked the home team out to the 9-2 advantage.

Poor shooting was dooming Carolina’s efforts early, but Tokoto halted the cold spell to get UNC’s second basket of the contest.

Tokoto muscling his way to the basket. (Todd Melet)

Tokoto muscling his way to the basket. (Todd Melet)

Eric Atkins popped a three-pointer to extend the lead out to 13-4 with 13:20 on the first half clock. Paige responded with a floater that found the nets on the other end.

It was six points for Tokoto as he emerged as the scoring threat for the Tar Heels to keep UNC in the game, trailing 13-8 with 11:45 left in the half.

Paige nailed a beautiful jumper to close the gap to a mere three points at 13-10. But the Irish continued to rain in deep shots from behind the arc to spurt back out to the 19-10 lead with 8:10 to play.

Missed layups were beginning to pile up for Carolina, but an electric dunk by Brice Johnson placed the score at 19-15 in favor of the Irish with 7:02 on the first half clock. Somehow, the Tar Heels were staying with the Irish despite shooting just 35 percent in the face of Notre Dame’s 54 percent clip.

Sherman did work on Meeks to get to rim and dish in a basket to give Notre Dame the 21-18 advantage with 5:10 remaining in the opening half.

The Irish held the 23-18 lead when a timeout was called with under three minutes left on the first half clock. UNC was taking questionable shots. Head Coach Roy Williams was livid over court side.

Paige slid in a gutty layup around a couple Notre Dame defenders and then followed that up with a timely three-pointer. McAdoo added in a forceful jam to give the Tar Heels their first lead of the game at 25-23 with under two minutes to play in the half.

At the half, Carolina had worked out to 27-23 lead. UNC finished the first half on a 17-4 run.

The Tar Heels held the 21-15 edge in rebounding and was benefiting from Irish turnovers. Paige and Tokoto each scored 9 points while Notre Dame’s Sherman tossed in six points.

Carolina got off to a strong second half start with a hustle play and a heave by McAdoo to Leslie McDonald who finished the fast break opportunity. UNC was leading 29-25 with 18:16 remaining in the game.

Meeks scored on an effort-filled play to stake the Tar Heels out to a 33-25 advantage with 16:48 to play.

The Tar Heel defensive intensity was resulting in steals, one of which led to a breakaway dunk for McAdoo. Carolina led 37-28 with 15:40 remaining in the game.

McDonald splashed in a three-pointer to extend the UNC lead out to 12 points. McAdoo jammed one home in the paint, and the Tar Heel offense was rolling midway through the second half.

Johnson flew to the rim and with 13:28 to play, Carolina held the 44-30 advantage over the Irish.

A great put-back effort from McAdoo staked Carolina out to a 50-37 lead with 10:07 remaining in the game.

The offensive explosion continued with a couple more Paige conversions. UNC was in full control of the contest with the 57-41 advantage with 7:20 to play.

Paige providing a spark. (Todd Melet)

Paige providing a spark. (Todd Melet)

Notre Dame closed the margin down to eight points, but Carolina staved off the surge to push the margin back out to double digits thanks to a pair of promising McAdoo free throw makes with just under four minutes remaining in the contest.

Carolina held on for the victory, a perfect tune-up for the Duke game looming Wednesday.

You can view the full game photo gallery here.

Final Box Score


Tar Heels-Fighting Irish Saturday Meeting First of Its Kind in ACC

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Tar Heels have won four straight entering their first contest against the Fighting Irish as ACC members.

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UNC leads the all-time series 16-4 and snagged the last meeting between the two schools in November of 2008 by a 102-87 margin to claim the Maui Invitational trophy.

Head Coach Roy Williams says he was happy with his team’s effort in the Maryland win on Tuesday, but the up-and-down foul shooting leaves him with something to worry about.

“We’ve still got to do some work on the free throw line. Somebody asked me if I was really pleased at the press conference the other day and what did I tell you? No. It’s a daily thing. Some days I make a lot of putts, and some days I don’t make any. For us, just answering their charges and pushes was the biggest point of the game,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams directing traffic. (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams directing traffic. (Todd Melet)

Notre Dame got off to a promising start in its inaugural ACC campaign with a victory over Duke on Jan. 4 but has lost traction since then, losing seven of the last nine games.

Coach Williams had a couple of his not so uncommon dizzy spells in Carolina’s victory over Maryland Tuesday, but he says Brice Johnson had a lot to do with the episodes.

“If Brice would stop dunking and screaming instead of running his butt back on defense, that would probably help some of it. I told him I was going to kill him. I know that’s not proper in today’s times, but I don’t want to read any junk about how I shouldn’t say that. He knows, no he thinks, I won’t do that. That’s probably a good way to put it,” Coach Williams says.

Despite Coach Williams’ frustrations, Johnson put together an impressive evening of basketball, netting 19 points.

Johnson says his defensive play is something he’s continuing to work on.

“I have to stand there and not try to block every shot, and maybe I won’t give up so many of those reverse layups that they’re getting. I have to keep working at it and get down lower in the stance,” Johnson says.

Notre Dame averages knocking down 7.1 three-point attempts per game, so Carolina will need to be alert, get out on the perimeter and contest shots in order to hold down the Irish attack.

No. 11 Duke is looming large for UNC after this one, but it’s important that the Tar Heels are not caught looking ahead to Wednesday too early.


Notre Dame’s First ACC Game Is At Home Vs. Duke

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame will play its first Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game at home against Duke on Jan. 4.

The game will pit Irish coach Mike Brey against his former boss, Mike Krzyzewski, who was critical of the ACC’s decision to allow Notre Dame to join the league while staying independent in football. Brey was an assistant under Krzyzewski from 1987-95, helping the Blue Devils win a pair of national championships.

Other highlights from the schedule released Thursday include the first ACC road game against Georgia Tech on Jan. 11, a home game against North Carolina on Feb. 8 and a game at UNC on March 3.

The Irish will renew their rivalry against BostonCollege at home on Feb. 1.